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Overall improvement trend in geoscientist unemployment continues, but self-employed geoscientists still doing it tough

Australian Geoscientist employment survey results for Q4 2018 released.

  • Call also made for greater political action to ensure more equitable and timely access to land for exploration
  • More women also forging geoscience careers

The latest quarterly Australian geoscientist unemployment survey for the final quarter of 2018, conducted during January 2019, revealed a slight increasein geoscientist unemployment, from 8.3% at the end of September, to 9.1% at the end of December 2018. Underemployment amongst self-employed geoscientists, however, rose significantly from 12.9% to 18.5% for the same period.

However, despite the dip for the past quarter, the new results pointed to evidence of an overall improving job trend since June 2016.

“This latest quarterly result is disappointing”, Australian Institute of Geoscientists spokesperson, Mr Andrew Waltho said today, “coming at a time when there was genuine optimism regarding an improvement in exploration activity, several, significant new mineral discoveries, and speculation regarding potential skills shortages facing the exploration and mining sectors”.  

Geoscientist employment in Australia June 2009 – December 2018

“Both the Federal Government and Opposition have announced initiatives to support mineral exploration research if elected in the May Federal election, but no-one is talking about improving processes facilitating equitable and timely access to land for exploration,” Mr Waltho said. 

“In fairness, this is a state issue, but we are still seeing bureaucratic and lengthy processes in operation that disadvantage the junior exploration sector in particular, with little sign of change,” Mr Waltho said.

The unemployment and underemployment situation varied widely between states.  Unemployment was lowest in South Australia (5.3%), NSW and ACT (5.6%) and Victoria (5.9%), followed by Western Australia (8.3%).  The results for Victoria and South Australia represent marked improvements on the previous, September quarter survey.  Unemployment in Western Australia was 8.3%, up from 6.5%. Unemployment in Queensland jumped from 11.5% in the September quarter to 15.1% in this survey.

Employment state by state. Too few survey responses were received from South Australia and the Northern Territory for inclusion.

All states except South Australia saw little change or an increase in unemployment in the 12 months between December 2017 and December 2018, but an overall improving trend since June 2016 remains evident.

The underemployment rate in South Australia took some gloss off the positive unemployment figure, coming in at 36.8% for the quarter, followed by Queensland (24.2%), NSW/ACT (16.9%), Western Australia (14.9%) and Victoria (11.8%).  

The survey attracted 391 individual responses.  Too few responses were received from Tasmania and the Northern Territory for the reporting of state results.

Junior exploration and mining companies employ 29% of Australia’s geoscientists according to this survey, almost as many as major and mid-tier companies combined.  

Cultural shift needed

“This amply demonstrates the importance of measures to help small employers avoid burning precious capital waiting for approvals before conducting productive exploration activities” Mr Waltho said.  

“Small companies have a limited capital base on which is difficult to raise further funds and must be used productively if they are to survive,” Mr Waltho said.

“Early career geoscientists tend to be employed in greater numbers by major mining and exploration companies but this soon changes as geoscientists gain professional experience, suggesting that major companies need to look more closely at retaining talent by providing a more dynamic and professionally rewarding professional environment for their staff,” Mr Waltho said.

Sources of employment for Australian geoscientists
Geoscientist employment in mineral exploration, by company tier

Women are represented almost equally in the geoscience staff of major, mid-tier and junior exploration companies.  The overall proportion of women in the workforce remains low, but large, mid-sized and junior companies don’t appear to either discriminate or be preferred sources of employment.

“Gender diversity in exploration and mining, long-considered to be a male dominated profession in Australia is changing rapidly” Mr Waltho said. “Almost half of the early career geoscientists (0-5 years’ experience) who responded to this latest survey were women,” Mr Waltho said.  “The sector is clearly creating career opportunities for women that are being taken up and we need to ensure that this trend continues through measures to promote and preserve gender diversity,” he said.

 “A drop in the proportion of women in the 5 – 10 year experience range is evident, but the proportion of women in the profession increases again in the 10 – 15 year range, suggesting, perhaps, that we are seeing the benefit of measures such as flexible employment and favourable parental leave provisions that enable geoscientists to mix raising a family with pursuit of a career. “This again, is something we need to build,” Mr Waltho said.  

Gender diversity amongst survey respondents. Women comprised 45% of early career geoscientists responding to the survey – signs of a very welcome trend towards more women taking up geoscience as their career

“The fact that we are seeing evidence pointing to this is a real positive for both the exploration and mining industry and our profession,” Mr Waltho said.

Employment survey snapshot

The latest AIG Australian Geoscientist Employment Survey for the final quarter of 2018, conducted during January 2019, revealed a slight increase in overall unemployment amongst Australian geoscientists and a spike in underemployment amongst self-employed geoscience professionals.

Geoscientist unemployment and underemployment in Australia June 2009 to December 2018

The unemployment rate rose slightly from 8.3% at the end of September to 9.1% at the end of December 2018, while underemployment for the same period increased significantly from 12.9% to 18.5%.

The unemployment rate was the lowest recorded since March 2013 but points to the geoscientist employment situation in Australia remaining somewhat fragile.

Analysis of the survey data is continuing – watch the AIG web site for a complete analysis of the survey results.

Australian geoscientist employment survey

The latest Australian geoscientist employment survey is open for contributions.  2019 marks the tenth anniversary of this survey series.

2019 marks the tenth anniversary of AIG's Australian Geoscientist Employment Survey series.
2019 marks the tenth anniversary of AIG’s Australian Geoscientist Employment Survey series.

This latest instalment in the survey series will provide data on trends in geoscientist employment in Australia during the final quarter (October, November, December) of 2018. 

In the September quarter, the Australian geoscientists unemployment rate fell slightly to 8.3%, from 8.5% in the June quarter.  This was the lowest level in several years but coincided with a widely held perception that industry activity and employment opportunities had improved significantly.  The period covered by this survey is typically one of the busiest times in the Australian exploration field season, which makes the muted improvement in employment interesting.

Australian geoscientist employment - June 2009 to September 2018.
Australian geoscientist employment – June 2009 to September 2018.

The survey takes only two or three minutes to complete.  You do not need to be an AIG member to contribute.  No data that could personally identify respondents is collected.

Contributions to the survey are required from both employed and unemployed geoscientists to ensure the relevance of results.  Your completing the survey really helps to make a difference to the standing and knowledge of our profession.

The survey will be open for contributions until 1st February 2019, to allow for the summer holiday season in Australia.  Every contribution adds to the reliability of the survey results.

Thanks in advance for your support.

Geoscientist unemployment essentially unchanged

The latest Australian geoscientist employment survey results show little change in unemployment and underemployment amongst Australian geoscientists in Quarter 3 from Quarter 2, 2018.

Geoscientist unemployment in Australia during the third quarter of 2018 was little changed from the previous quarter.  The unemployment rate fell from 8.5% at the end of June to 8.3% at the end of September.  Under-employment amongst self employed geoscientists also fell slightly, from 13.2% to 12.9% for the same period.

Geoscientist unemployment in Australia June 2009 to September 2018
Geoscientist unemployment in Australia June 2009 to September 2018.

Almost half (43%) of respondents reporting that they were under-employed said that they were achieving less than 25% of their desired level of self- employment, pointing to real unemployment and under-employment rates of 13.8% and 7.4% for the September quarter of 2018 respectively.

The survey results are interpreted to reflect anecdotal evidence of continued improvement in geoscientist employment in Australia throughout 2018, but the pace of improvement has been slow. 

“Employment conditions for geoscientists in Australia are showing very welcome, gradual employment but the rate at which this improvement is happening remains slow” AIG spokesperson Andrew Waltho said.  

State by state, unemployment fell in Western Australia and Queensland.  A small increase in unemployment was observed in NSW and the ACT, but significant increases in unemployment were evident in Victoria, where unemployment increased by almost 11%, followed by South Australia at over 9%.

Western Australia and Queensland unemployment June 2009 to Sep 2018
Western Australia and Queensland unemployment June 2009 to Sep 2018

“In the latest survey, 23% of unemployed and underemployed respondents lost employment during the past three months”.  “This was only slightly exceeded by the number of respondents re-entering the workforce” Mr Waltho said.  “A significant number of geoscientists appear to be caught in an employment revolving door” Mr Waltho said.

The proportion of geoscientists employed in mineral exploration during the September quarter increased, from 65.3% to 66.1% during the quarter; the highest contribution proportion of survey respondents engaged in mineral exploration of 66.9% recorded by these surveys in September 2012, suggesting that increased mineral exploration in Australia is making a difference, but at the expense of other fields of practice.  Little change was evident in employment in metalliferous mining and energy resource exploration and production.

The proportion of unemployed and underemployed geoscientists looking to leave their profession fell sharply from 4,2% at the end of June, to 2.6% at the end of September. 

“The decline in geoscientists looking to leave their profession must be seen as a positive sign” Mr Waltho said.  “These results are markedly down from the peak of 11.4% of unemployed and under-employed geoscientists looking to leave their profession recorded in December 2016” Mr Waltho said.

The proportion of geoscientists in full-time employment in the latest survey was 68.6%, well below the peak of 83.9% recorded in June 2014.  Part time employment provided 3.3% of jobs.  Some 28.1% of respondents identified as being self employed; up from 21.9% in the previous quarter and the low of 13.0% recorded in June 2013.  

“We have clearly seen a trend towards engagement of self-employed geoscientists as consultants and contractors by exploration and mining companies over the past four to five years” Mr Waltho said.  “This is reflected in data for employment and unemployment by years of experience, which points to almost half of unemployed geoscientists being the most experienced component of the workforce” Mr Waltho said.  

Geoscientist employment and and unemployment by years of experience.
Geoscientist employment and and unemployment by years of experience.

“Early career geoscientists are also experiencing difficulties getting started in the profession” Mr Waltho said.  “AIG is strongly focused on this issue with AIG’s National Graduate Committee working hard to improve opportunities for early career geoscientists through initiatives that, notably, include the Institute’s extremely successful mentoring programme” Mr Waltho said.

The next survey will open for contributions on 1 January 2019.

Postdoctoral fellow position at CODES

CODES, at the University of Tasmania, is searching for a Postdoctoral Research Fellow – Geometallurgy / Economic Geology

This position is based at CODES and is part of the Collaborative Research Centre for Optimising Resource Extraction (CRC ORE). This position is in the areas of Geometallurgy, combined with Economic Geology, specifically predictive geometallurgical controls on grade by size.  The appointee will conduct a geometallurgy research program, with the aim to investigate what geological parameters from a range of scales from mineralogy to ore deposit models can contribute to a prediction of which ore types and ore blocks should be tested for grade engineering behaviour.

Full details of the position are available from the University of Tasmania web site.

Applications close 9th December 2018

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